Tuesday, February 17, 2015

On Bullies

Bullies have a skill for making you feel like it's your fault you're getting bullied. If only you weren't so stubborn, stupid, ugly, Asian, such a b!@#$, I (the bully) wouldn't be compelled to put you in your place.  The story never changes. You deserve the treatment I’m giving you.

I was bullied through grade school: one of a very few non-white students, I wore a leg brace, I was natural-born target. Often the bullying took on psycho-sexual overtones, for instance, pinning me down and pulling off my underwear was the thing to do (age five, when I started wearing leotards instead of underpants). My mom was a turn-the-other-cheek sort of gal, my dad was a teach-the-kid some martial arts guy. I got suspended for fighting. So did the bullies.

Bullies don't seem to change, the tactics are the same, bells go off whenever I encounter one. Over many decades I think I've encountered many variations on the theme, from seemingly nice people to straight-up psychopaths, tinged with what I understand are standard variations (narcissism, passive-aggressive actions, etc).

The latest bully was a member of a design team I work with. We are literally all over the world, a cyber-team; we conference-called, worked and communicated on a Cloud platform. Our bully insisted we go at a problem like Sherlock Holmes. I typed that meant we already knew the outcome, one of the joys of writing fiction: Arthur Conan Doyle knew the outcome before presenting the problem.

Our bully posts this: "Oh, **I** know the outcome, just waiting for the rest of you to catch on."

Another person on the forum typed, "To slightly misquote Sherlock, he thinks we're spectacularly ignorant, but in a nice way."

Another, “Yes, thank you for your input.”

There are several more similar comments, I realize half the group are BBC Sherlock fans, we share trivia. Our bully posts something quite rude and demands a Skype call so we can see each other -- we were only a week into the project, hadn't seen each other yet.

The call: eight men and six women, various ages, ethnic backgrounds, our bully comes on last and -- oh golly, he's **this** close to a cosplay BBC Sherlock. The hair, the purple shirt, the steepled fingertips. He lectures us for holding things up, for being idiots, this and that should be painfully obvious -- does he have to draw us a picture? He draws us a picture -- a flowchart. It's the same flowchart we've been using, only with him in the lead. The team coordinators listen, we all listen, all we can do is listen, couldn't get a word in edgewise. He insists everyone but he and the team coordinators log off.

Later that day I get a group email reiterating the points he made in the Skype call. And a post on the forum identical to the email. I get a private email with an analysis of my character, based on his observations. He presents a list of bullet points and demands I respond to each, and ends with this, If you had any brains at all I wouldn't have to do this.

I don't respond. I suspect the others are also getting similar missives, soon enough other members of the team verify this.

Then... nothing. No activity on the forum, no email, I wonder if I've been fired.

This morning, a terse message, Mr. X is no longer working on the project, disregard all messages from (list of Mr. X’s email addresses). The old forum has been closed, the new one is at xxxxxxx...

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